It is a well known saying that ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’.
But now nutritionists say there is some truth in the assertion – and believe that eating just one apple or pear daily could half the risk of having a stroke.
Both are examples of white-fleshed fruit, which is important because that means they contain large amounts of a plant compound called quercetin.
This biochemical has been shown to reduce inflammation, which is relevant because inflammation is linked to hardening of the arteries: cardiovascular disease.
Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands who studied 20,000 adults, found those who ate more white-fleshed fruit and vegetables were less likely to suffer a stroke over 10 years.
They calculated that stroke risk decreased by nine per cent for every 25g (just under one ounce) of apple or pear eaten each day.
Given that an average-sized apple or pear weighs between 100g and 125g, that means one a day would reduce stroke risk by between 36 and 45 per cent.
Linda Oude Griep, lead author of the study, published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, said: “To prevent stroke, it may be useful to consume considerable amounts of white fruits and vegetables.
“For example, eating one apple a day is an easy way to increase white fruits and vegetable intake.
“However, other fruits and vegetable color groups may protect against other chronic diseases. Therefore, it remains of importance to consume a lot of fruits and vegetables.”
If quercetin is the active compound when it comes to stroke then there are also many others that contain lots of it, not all with white flesh. Raspberries, tomatoes, red grapes and broccoli are good sources, as are onions.
Additionally, the result could be “due to a generally healthier lifestyle of individuals consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables,” said Dr Heike Wersching from Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine at Münster University in Germany.
Stroke is the third largest cause of death in England and Wales, according to The Stroke Association, accounting for 53,000 deaths annually. Every year in Britain about 150,000 people have a stroke.
Dr Sharlin Ahmed, from The Stroke Association, said the main message from the report was that eating fruit and vegetables was good at reducing stroke risk – whatever the colour of it.
He said: ““We all know that eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg is good for our health. It’s interesting to see that fruit and vegetables with white flesh, such as apples and pears, could reduce a person’s stroke risk more so than others.
“However, this should not deter people from eating other colours of fruit and veg as they all have health benefits and remain an important part of a stable diet.
“A lot more research is needed before the colour of our groceries alone is used to determine what health benefits they may have.
“Everyone can reduce their risk of stroke by eating a healthy balanced diet that is low in saturated fat and salt, exercising regularly and ensuring that your blood pressure is checked and kept under control.”